During the early stages of my legal career, I had the opportunity to work on a tragic case, Khan v. Rajput, which resulted in the unpublished appellate decision,

The case centered around my efforts to facilitate the return of two young children to their father, Mr. Khan, after their mother removed them from New Jersey to Pakistan, without his consent. Ms. Rajput, then a medical student in the US, escorted the children back to her homeland to live with her family. After several months, she returned to the US without the children in order to complete her schooling. Upon arrival, she was arrested at the airport but patently refused to return the children to their father. She was subsequently released from custody, and we instituted trial court proceedings to ensure the children’s swift return. However, Pakistan’s unwillingness to be a party to Hague Convention meant that unless the case became a national story that it would be an uphill battle to compel their return.

Continue Reading Child Abduction: Capital Anonymity. A True Story about the Hague Convention

An interesting case was recently decided by the United Supreme Court involving an international custody dispute, which has particular relevance for members of the military. For the case, click here. When there are allegations of parental kidnapping, or an unlawful removal of children to another country, there is an international treaty, known has the The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which provides an expeditious method intended to return a child removed by a parent from one member nation to another.   The primary intention of the Convention is to maintain the custody arrangement which existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court. The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.

Unfortunately, not all countries are signatories to the treaty (most notably, the majority of Middle Eastern countries are not). However, those that are give litigants an important process to be heard when a child is unlawfully taken. The core premise of the Hague Convention is that custody disputes should be resolved in what is known as the child’s “habitual residence.” Recently, a father who had been denied relief by an American Court when it was found that Scotland was the habitual residence of his daughter had his case reinstated by the United States Supreme Court.

The Hague Conventions requires the judicial or administrative authority of a signatory country to order a child returned to his or her country of habitual residence if the authority finds that the child has been wrongfully removed to or retained in the contracting country. The International Child Abduction Remedies Act (the name of the United States law which implements the Convention in the United States) also requires defendants to pay various expenses incurred by plaintiffs associated with the return of children. Generally, once a child has been return to his or her country of habitual residence, the case is considered concluded. However, this can, as the Supreme Court concluded, lead to inequities.

Continue Reading Parent’s rights under the Hague Convention Upheld

The following entry was prepared by Eliana Baer, an associate in our Princeton office.

We previously blogged on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Abbott v. Abbott, which addressed the meaning of the “right of custody” under the Hague convention. There, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to the extent that it ruled that it a noncustodial father who had regular visitation rights with his child, shared in the right to determine the child’s residence, which constituted a right of custody under the Hague Convention sufficient to invoke enforcement under the Hague. As to the issue of the child’s removal over international borders, however, the Supreme Court the Court did not automatically order the child’s return to Chile. Rather, the Court remanded the for a determination by the trial court. Parents from New Jersey and other states are put in similar situations on a daily basis trying to have their children returned to them from foreign nations.

One such recent case is Fuentes v. Fuentes which arose under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), which is a statute that determines jurisdiction in custody disputes. In Fuentes, the Father, a United States citizen, appealed from a Family Part order that registered an order of the Venezuelan Court, obtained by the Mother, a Venezuelan citizen, and ordered her to return the parties’ son, born in the United States, to Venezuela. The Mother, who was born in Columbia, and Father, a citizen of Venezuela, were married in New Jersey in June 2003. Unbeknownst to the Mother, however, at the time of the parties’ marriage, the father was still married to another woman. The parties’ son was born in September 2003. Approximately three months later, they moved to Venezuela with their child so that the Father could operate a business he owned there. Both parties maintained that the move was temporary.

Continue Reading Fraudulent Inducement to Marry Enough to Confer Jurisdiction in an International Custody Battle

The following blog has been written by Eliana Baer, an associate of the firm resident in our Princeton office.

In our increasingly mobile society, it is no surprise that the issue of international child abduction has emerged as one of the new “hot topics” in family law.  On May 17, 2010, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in Abbott v. Abbott, involving different aspects of international abduction and custody. Sandra Fava, an associate in our Roseland office previously blogged about this case.

 

In Abbott, Timothy Abbott, a British citizen, and Jacquelyn Abbott, an American citizen, obtained a divorce in the Chilean courts.  Mrs. Abbott was awarded custody of their son, and Mr. Abbott was awarded visitation rights. At Mrs. Abbott’s request, the Chilean court entered an order prohibiting the child’s removal from Chile by either party without prior mutual consent. When about one year later, Mrs. Abbott removed the child to Texas without Mr. Abbott’s consent, Mr. Abbott filed suit in the Federal District Court in Texas, seeking an order requiring his son’s return to Chile under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Chile and the United States are signatories to the Hangue Convention). The district court held that the child’s removal did not constitute a breach of the father’s "rights of custody" as defined by the Hague convention. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed and an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Rules on the Issue of International Child Custody

Nearly everyone I know from the state of New Jersey has heard about the horrific battle Sean Goldman faced trying to have his biological son returned from Brazil where he was being cared for by his step-father after the unexpected death of his mother.  Recently, at the end of December he was finally reunited with his son, seemingly only after the case caught nation and worldwide media attention.  What some people may not know or fail to realize is that there are Sean Goldman’s all over this country.  Parents from New Jersey and other states are faced in a similar battle trying to have their children returned to them from foreign nations.

One such case is the matter of Abbott v. Abbott scheduled for oral argument before the United States Supreme Court on January 12, 2010.  The Abbotts were married in England and later had a child in Hawaii.  They moved to Chile where they separated in 2002 and were later divorced.  The Chilean court granted the mother custody and father visitation rights.  In 2004, at the mother’s request, the Chilean court issued a ne exeat order prohibiting either parent from removing the child from Chile without mutual consent of the other.

Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Case on International Child Abduction & The Hague Convention